The congregants of the oldest African-American church in the South, Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, have the thoughts and prayers of people around the nation. As the many prayer vigils attest to, people are turning their thoughts away from the hate crime perpetrated and, instead, toward love for those who were killed and for their families and friends left with grief.
These demonstrations of love in response to hate may seem remarkable to some. But people of faith turn to what they know, what they have been helped by for perhaps generations – a universal and divine power, known as God, divine Love, that comforts those who mourn. For those of faith, prayer is the way to connect with the love of God that brings comfort and healing; it’s an answered prayer anchored in the beatitude “Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4). In this, Emanuel A.M.E. Church and those who join with them in prayer, are not united by murder; we are united by our love for each other and by our faith in one omnipotent power, God, divine good.
Our prayers today do not ignore the deep societal issues that engender these heinous acts, nor do they put aside the need for justice for the victims. Instead, our prayers rise together in a thorough rejection of hate crimes and all evil. And, ultimately it is the dissolution of hate that uproots destructive motives and forms of violence. A society motivated by Love excludes hate in every form.
It was Christ Jesus who proved, beyond doubt, that faith in God, divine Love, is not a mere human hope, he “proved ... Love to be the master of hate,” as the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, explains in her book “Science and health with Key to the Scriptures,” on page 44. Writing of Love as supreme in power and of the impotence of hate, she says, “Human hate has no legitimate mandate and no kingdom” (Science and Health, p. 454). It is by this fact that our prayers find a sure basis: the illegitimacy of hate and the supreme power of Love.
Jesus taught that as children of divine Love, we are drawn to do good and not evil; that we show our true nature in our love for one another. This truth of our identity as children of Love is within us and enables us to defeat the scourge of hate crime. By expressing the love of God, we are impelled and strengthened to conquer hate.
Within our deepest prayers, our most earnest affirmations of the truth Christ Jesus shows us of God’s love and our ability to live as children of Love, we pray arm in arm with our brothers and sisters of all races, of all faiths. Our prayers for those in Charleston and for the nation might include what is given in Ephesians: “That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God” (3:16-19).